Scope Creep

By in Interactive on 2008/11/21

Meet John Scope and Emma Creep.

Scope is tidy and well structured, with nothing disturbing his world order. He completes his duties on a very efficient and resourceful way.  And even if we scramble their world view, things don’t fall apart.
On the other hand, Mrs. Creep is quite flashy, very liberal and never stays too long on the same place. She loves to please her friends and clients, even though she doesn’t succeed every time.
Here’s our Scope Creep couple, a vision of what goes on in interactive projects.

Scope starts at the activity definition, with an overview of required resources. It then continues to create the processes that are agreed among all parts towards a final goal.
And then comes the Creep, with the chance of being hit by last minute change requests, way beyond the initial briefing or suddenly being confronted with a reality that wasn’t present as the project started.

Scope creep usually happens when the initial requirements and resources are incorrectly defined or when unforeseen changes and tasks appear along the project, requiring new functional adjustments and project rescheduling.
The saddest truth, at least for interactive projects, is that scope creep is bound to happen. There’s no sure way to avoid it, but one could start by finding out why it happens, instead of just focusing on the final project stages (with programmers or producers getting all the blame), where each change requires a profound restructuring of what’s been developed beforehand, whether it’s animation, programing, rendering, etc.
The most reasonable approach to scope creeping in web projects is to focus on the whole process, instead of the individual .

How to deal with Scope Creep?

We start with risk analysis, a rather common technique in project management, establishing the details before the project gets started and actually produced. But with more complex projects, the greater this risk analysis becomes. On what interactive projects are concerned, the complexity gets really huge. The web has only 10 years but it’s constantly changing, with teams having to deal with several different browsers, platforms and a variety of programming languages and product release cycles of months, if not weeks or days.
Keeping the pace with all this innovation, with lack of talented or trained team collaborators and still being able to deliver projects on short schedules is a challenge that many agencies and digital studios face these days. On top of that, the constant stream of change requests and approval process are wearing out interactive teams.

John Scope could try to get things right by setting a project duration in regards to historical records, but that just doesn’t work. No two projects are the same, no two clients are the same, no two programmers or web designers are the same. He might also try some fancy new techniques like SCRUM, and while it might work for some teams, it’s really just dividing bigger problems into smaller ones so they get more manageable.
Web projects don’t seem to have a way out of the rabbit hole, as long as the creative process is based on visual comps, storyboards and those pesky JPEGs sent for client approval.

Integrating and early planning

I stand with 37 Signals, and their “no-Photoshop” approach, using fast prototyping and wireframing on web applications and services. Focus on functionality, not visuals. Worry about what really brings changes on the process, not what is the result of the process. Unless creative agencies start rethinking their silos there’s no way out of scope creep. These days, most RIAs have drag and drop capabilities, Rich text editors or javascript libraries that can bring a client or creative into the production process to perform live edits, shortening the iterative release cycles.
This process also empowers other project members, presenting them tools and concepts that they were not aware of.

And before writing the first line of code, be sure that all interested agents have the same expectations regarding the final product. The earlier you do it, the earlier you’ll finish it. And have it written, with client, agency and production team with one common agreed goal.

It’s hard, it requires everyone’s commitment, but once we get in the flow, i’m sure you’ll make John Scope and Emma Creep happier.

2 thoughts on “Scope Creep

  1. 1

    Brilliant – and so true.

  2. 2

    I like the introduction of the article, a lot! Mr. Scope and Mrs. Creep, it’s the first time I see this particular topic handled in such an interesting way.

    This is a very good introduction to scope creep, I did publish, in case you or your readers are interested, a 9 part series about scope creep. Check it, and let me know what you think!

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